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Pondering pink slips

Saugus Union School District may lay off 35 teachers, increase class sizes

Posted: March 10, 2009 12:54 a.m.
Updated: March 10, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

The Saugus Union School District board will consider laying off 35 full-time teachers and increasing K-3 class sizes by two or three students each tonight as a way to meet a $3 million shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

"We have to be fiscally prudent and look at the worst-case scenario in terms of teachers that we may not need next year," Superintendent Judy Fish said.

The layoffs would save the district $1.6 million, said Bob Cutting, assistant superintendent of business.

The district must notify teachers of any layoffs by the end of this week, Fish said.

Pending board approval, the district could increase class sizes in K-3 classes to 22 or 23 students for every teacher. The current ratio is 20 students to one teacher, Cutting said.

The increased class sizes would save the district about $1.3 million, Fish said.

"If you increase class size, then you don't need quite as many teachers," Fish said.

The board recently approved a retirement incentive program for teachers.

District officials hope senior teachers will take advantage of the incentive, allowing the district to reduce the number of actual layoffs for the 2009-10 year, Fish said.

The district, which maintains a $54-million general fund, is not considering any layoffs of classified staff for the time being, Fish said.

"We tried to look at cuts across the board in every possible category as much as possible staying away from the classroom," the superintendent said.

The district imposed a hiring freeze and eliminated open positions at the district level, she said.

"It's not just cuts. We're looking at things in more of an efficient manner," she said, referring to energy conservation at the 15 elementary schools.

Board members will also consider whether to transfer $140,000 from the physical education teacher fund to the general fund for the current fiscal year as a way to reduce any further budget cuts, Cutting said.

The transfer should not impact the district's physical education program as the $140,000 was left over from the previous year, Cutting said.

Another $1,989,240 could be transferred from the deferred maintenance fund to the general fund for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Cutting said.

The transfer would not hurt any major modernization or construction projects, but possibly delay small renovations like roof repairs, Cutting said.

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